Filipino Focus at Long Beach Comic Con
A glimpse into a panel centered on the contributions of Filipino Americans in comics and animation
Photo and Words by Andrew Linde Contributor
Over the weekend, Long Beach Comic Con hosted a panel highlighting the contributions of Filipino Americans in comics and animation. Moderated by FilAm Creative, a community organization supporting Filipino Americans in entertainment and media, the panel featured comic book writer and artist Whilce Portacio, writer Leo Partible, and animator and writer Van Partible.
“We’re fearless,” said Portacio. “If you ask us to do something in two days, we’ll do it.”
“We’re fearless,” said Portacio, speaking of Filipino Americans’ ability to quickly adapt to other cultures and ways of life. “If you ask us to do something in two days, we’ll do it.”
Philippines-born Portacio absorbed American comic books as a child after his family settled in San Diego. He is perhaps best known for being one of the seven artists who founded Image Comics and for co-creating the character of Bishop (who was finally in a live-action X-Men film, played by Omar Sy in “X-Men: Days of Future Past”). Portacio left Image Comics in 1995 to start a studio in Manila.
The creators made it clear that they care deeply for the Philippines and want to give back when they can. When a deadly typhoon hit the island a few years back, Leo Partible gathered together as many Filipino and Filipino-American artists as he could to draw superheroes saving victims of the natural disaster for charity. So many artists showed up for the job that he was forced to turn some of them away.
“Nobody knew their names, but they knew what they worked on,” he said.
According to the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Asians made up just 5% of roles in the top 100 films in 2014.
In high school, said Portacio during the panel, he had such trouble coming to terms with his ethnic identity that he “became Japanese for a while.” This statement was met with laughs from the audience.
Panelist Van Partible agreed that he once had trouble coming to terms with his Filipino heritage as well.
“I never really embraced the Filipino side of me until [I watched ‘The Debut’].”
“I never really embraced the Filipino side of me until [I watched ‘The Debut’],” he said.“The Debut,” released in 2000, is the first Filipino-American film to be released theatrically nationwide.
Van Partible is perhaps best known for creating the Cartoon Network show “Johnny Bravo.” But since embracing his Filipino culture, he’s noticed it all around, even in his own work.
“Johnny Bravo is very Filipino,” he said. “There is a part of him that’s grounded in being Filipino and that is wanting to be seen.”
Within the next year, Portacio will be releasing the second volume of his comic, “Stone.” The first volume is set in the Philippines and features a Filipino action star who discovers that the agimat, or mystical talismans, that he wields in a series of films are real and that he must fight Filipino mythological creatures.
“It’s up to us to create [Filipino-centered] material,” said Leo Partible.